Feb. 25, 2014
By Phoenix Harris ’14
It’s been almost two months since graduate student Tom Knight was named a captain of the men’s basketball team. Knight, along with senior Garrick Sherman, was appointed by the coaching staff to join two team-voted captains already in place – senior Eric Atkins and junior Pat Connaughton.
Head coach Mike Brey attributed Knight’s addition to the group of captains to his leadership in the locker room, the respect he had from his teammates and his ability to handle business on and off the court seamlessly.
Now, as the Irish approach the final two regular-season games, Knight recalls the day he became an official leader of the Fighting Irish.
“It meant a lot to me. It gave me a different sense of responsibility,” Knight says. “I always felt I was unofficially a leader on this team, but when I was given the official role, I definitely focused more on only what was best for the team.”
Knight admits that prior to being named captain, something like personal playing time could have an effect on his mood. However, once he realized he was being looked at as someone to guide the team, his focus quickly shifted.
“Garrick and I weren’t voted on by the team – we were appointed by the coaches. The fact that the coaches saw us as leaders and thought it necessary to give us the captain roles made me feel honored,” Knight says. “Now I realize that it’s not about me. It’s all about the team.”
Knight shies away from talking about the impact his mentorship has on the team. Instead, he talks about how his coaches have mentored him or how the other three captains are more vocal leaders.
But his fellow captain, Atkins, is quick to share how big of an impact he’s made on the team.
“I see him as a captain who leads by example. He’s not the most talkative person, but you can see he’s different by his work ethic and what he brings to practice every single day,” Atkins explains. ” (Pat) Connaughton and I are guards and I think the younger guards look to us for help. But with Knight and Sherman being named captains, our post men that are younger now have leaders to look to.”
And an impressive leader he is. Against Boston College, Knight helped the Irish to their first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference road win (a 73-69 victory) as he scored 10 points and matched his career best by grabbing nine rebounds. Fighting Irish forwards in points (10) and the team in rebounds (9 – with 6 offensive) in their game against Boston College. Knight’s nine rebounds tied his career high.
“He’s been through everything that a basketball player can go through – not playing much to getting a lot of playing time,” Atkins says. “He’s been a consistent leader no matter what. I really respect him for that.”
Knight’s leadership reaches far past the basketball court or the locker room and appears on campus and in the South Bend community. He works closely with the university’s Student Welfare and Development, and he is also an Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Monogram Board Liaison, ACC Representative and an avid participant in many community service efforts.
Every week he goes to South Bend’s Perley Elementary School and works as a mentor for children.
“Whenever there’s an event involving kids where they come to Notre Dame and do activities so they’re not sitting around all day – that’s the stuff I like to focus on,” Knight says.
To him, things like volunteering to work with local kids, hitting the weight room with his younger team members, trying his hardest in games, and focusing on cultivating positive team mindsets are not activities he does for himself, but things he know will benefit those he cares the most about.
“I’ve been blessed with so many things,” Knight says matter-of-factly. “I have a great family, great friends and Notre Dame. Many people don’t have those things and so I do my best to give back.”
Knight’s consistency in giving back during his tenure at Notre Dame has earned him the respect of those that know him. That it paid off with his captaincy is just icing on the cake.